Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!
Artist at work
Tune in here to watch Matt Davies draw Friday’s editorial cartoon live for a Facebook audience. Ask questions in the comments section and Davies will answer them as he sketches.
Half hour to D.C.? Fake news?
Just when you thought the fake-ish news couldn’t get any weirder, Tesla and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that he’d received “verbal govt approval . . . to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop.”
Presumably this would be a version of the ultra-high-speed people-mover Musk has proposed to alleviate traffic on the West Coast. He specified on Thursday that the N.Y.-D.C. route would take “29 mins.”
Key “govt” agencies such as the U.S. Department of Transportation have yet to confirm said approval, but in this day and age, the supposed informal approval is hardly less strange than other news coming out of Washington.
Actually, even with our many transit problems, do New Yorkers really want to be only 29 minutes away from that swampy locale?
Musk appeared to distance himself from Donald Trump when he quit the president’s business advisory councils in June after the White House withdrew from the Paris agreement on climate change.
But who knows what potential handshake deal Musk, whose SpaceX has won government contracts, might be referring to? The DOT referred questions on the issue to the White House, where a spokesman sent the following in an email: “We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.”
Just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in.
A tale of two sales tax revenues
The recent announcement that both Nassau and Suffolk counties saw increases in sales tax revenue for the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2016 is unquestionably good news for county coffers. But just how positive is it for the counties’ deficit-burdened budgets?
That depends not on how revenue compares with last year, but how it measures up against what was budgeted.
Nassau County, which collected about $1.1 billion in sales tax in 2016, reported a six-month collection up 2.6 percent over last year. According to county officials, if that trend holds up for the second half of 2017, sales tax will bring in about $29 million more than in 2016, but that will mean a surplus of only $12 million. The other $17 million in increased tax revenue was already anticipated. And it’s a drop in the bucket because Nassau’s projected budget deficit for 2017 is in excess of $100 million.
Suffolk County, which collected about $1.35 billion a year in sales tax in 2016, reported a six-month collection up 4.16 percent over last year. According to county officials, if that trend holds up for the second half of the year, the total increase will be about $56 million, which will mean a surplus of about $37 million. Suffolk, too, anticipated an increase in 2017, budgeting $19 million in new money. Suffolk’s projected budget deficit for 2017 is approximately $160 million.
So Long Island’s economy is doing well, and both counties are doing better than in 2016, and better than they expected. This is good news — if not big news when compared to the size of the problems.
Bellone gets a laugh
Parachute journalism has it flaws.
A reporter unfamiliar with a foreign country or the culture of region drops in suddenly to file a dispatch that provides a distorted or uninformed view. National publications trying to cover local politics are prone to this, as found in a recent story in the New Republic magazine titled “How Andrew Cuomo Keeps the Left in Check.” The piece explores why progressives in New York don’t mount a primary challenge to him in 2018.
Hint: That he harasses and one-ups everyone “with the potential to energize the left.” The article concludes that this why Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara “and rising stars, like Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone” aren’t making noises about a run.
Bellone said he found the piece “pretty funny” when The Point spoke to him before Wednesday’s Long Island Association luncheon in Woodbury, where he would later take the podium to praise Cuomo.
“I’m going to challenge him from the left, no less,” said a grinning Bellone, whose county went for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton last year.